Coast poet honoured in private meeting with Queen Elizabeth

Halfmoon Bay writer Lorna Goodison has officially been presented the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, which she received from Queen Elizabeth at a March 5 ceremony at Buckingham Palace. 

“It’s really beautiful,” Goodison said of the three-inch-diameter, embossed, solid gold medallion, in a telephone interview this week. “I’m just deeply humbled and wondering, how did this ever happen?” 

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Her private, 10-minute meeting with the Queen “was pretty darned amazing,” Goodison said. “She’s absolutely lovely. She gives you openings to speak and seems genuinely present and engaged and interested in what you have to say.

“You can see she cares about human beings and humanity. I didn’t get a false note from her. And that’s pretty terrific, considering how many people she has to deal with all the time. She makes you feel a valued human being and worth talking to. 

“I felt that all the people I had been writing about the whole of my life were there with me, in a way.” 

Goodison was notified of the award last November in a phone call from U.K. Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, who recommended Goodison to the Queen as the 2019 medal recipient. Previous winners of the medal, first awarded in 1934, have included such luminaries as W.H. Auden and Philip Larkin. Armitage described Goodison as “a hugely significant and influential contemporary author both at home and internationally.” 

Goodison, 72, has published 13 volumes of poetry and a selection of short stories. Her most recent book, Collected Poems, was published in 2017. 

She and husband Ted Chamberlin returned home from London March 9, a week before international travellers’ quarantines were ordered by the federal government. But the couple voluntarily took to a precautionary two-week isolation at the waterfront Halfmoon Bay property they’ve owned for 20 years and now live in full-time. “We just went right into [quarantine],” she said. Neither has shown any COVID-19 symptoms and they remain hunkered down like most Sunshine Coasters. 

The past few years have been exceptional for the pair. In 2017, Goodison was named poet laureate of her native Jamaica. In 2018, she was selected for the prestigious U.S. Windham-Campbell Prize, and last summer, both she and Chamberlin were awarded honorary doctorates at the University of Toronto, where he spent a career as a professor of English literature.

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